Sometimes, funeral costs can take you by surprise. Perhaps the death itself was unexpected, or prices are higher than you originally thought.

If there simply isn’t enough money to pay for the whole funeral right now, there are options you can explore. Here we’ll discuss who is responsible for funeral costs in the UK, ways to reduce and manage fees, and who pays for a funeral if there is no money at all. Let’s begin.


Who is legally responsible for funeral costs in the UK?

Anyone who pays for a funeral has the legal right to claim that money back from the estate of the person who died.

So, while the executor of the estate (if there’s a will) or the family (if not) are usually responsible for arranging the funeral, they can:

  • Pay for it using funds from the bank account of the person who died. Most banks will release up to £5,000 for funeral costs when presented with an invoice.
  • Take the money back from the estate later on, after assets and property are sold. Funeral costs are usually the executor’s first priority.

But what if the estate isn’t big enough to cover it? Who is responsible for paying for a funeral then? Read on …


Can you be forced to pay for a funeral?

Not exactly. Parents currently have a duty to bury or cremate a child in the UK. However, this is changing, and in any case many funeral directors, crematoria and cemeteries drop their fees for children’s funerals. In all other instances, you have no obligation to hold a funeral and there are no additional laws that say who legally has to pay for a funeral.

But – and this is a big but – if you have engaged the services of a funeral director and entered into a contract with them, you are legally responsible for paying their fees. But help is available …

If the person who died took out a funeral plan, you may be able to use this to pay for the funeral. Check their paperwork to see if you can make a claim.


How to pay for a funeral with no money

If you’re arranging a funeral but funds are low, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Compare funeral director quotes. You can use our free funeral director comparison tool to find the least expensive funeral director in your area.
  • Apply for the Funeral Expenses Payment. Available to those on certain benefits, this is a government grant that covers essential funeral costs.
  • Apply for a Bereavement Support Payment. If you’re under state pension age and your spouse or civil partner has died, you may be able to claim £2,500 from the government.
  • Check for charitable grants. Turn2Us can help you find a charity that might offer financial support based on your situation.
  • Take steps to keep funeral costs down. For example, taking your own car to the funeral or asking guests to bring food for the wake. Find out more about reducing funeral costs here.
  • Try crowdfunding. You can raise money from family and friends using a free Beyond obituary, or through a crowdfunding site. Just be aware that some crowdfunding sites may take a small cut.

You can find out more about these options and how to pay for funeral expenses with no money in our guide to getting help with funeral costs.

A direct cremation – that’s a cremation without a funeral service – can be as little as £1,195. This is about half the price of a traditional cremation or burial. You can hold a funeral later on when you’ve saved a little, perhaps by scattering the ashes somewhere special. Find out more here.


Who pays for a funeral when there is no family, or the family can’t pay?

If there’s no family or friends to pay for the funeral, and there’s no estate, the local council will organise a public health funeral.

This is a very simple funeral with a short service. It’s often a cremation. Guests are generally allowed to come, but the council will choose when and where it happens. They may also keep the ashes after the service.

Local councils tend to see public health funerals as a last resort. They usually won’t take on the task of paying for funerals when there is no money if there’s any alternative.


We hope you’ve found the information you need in this guide to who pays for a funeral if there is no money. For more advice, check out the funeral costs section of our Advice Centre.

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